I’m looking for “Jesus laughed” – the verse in the Bible that tells me Jesus had a sense of humour. Is there a funny Jesus?
When we read “Jesus wept” (John 11:35), we grab onto it because Jesus’ humanity oozes out. He grieved the loss of his friend Lazarus. I can relate to that Jesus. Then there’s Jesus’ rampage in the temple. Tables and doves flying. Shopkeepers screaming, “oi vay!” and diving for cover. As purely righteous as his anger was, we still find comfort in knowing that our Jesus felt and expressed emotion – sadness and anger, even the blood-sweat of Gethsemane.
But did Jesus enjoy a good knee-slapper? 99 Pharisees walk into a bar. Bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve Pharisees here.” And the Pharisees say, “OK fine, we’re leaven.”
I’ve always had the ability to see humour in some of the darkest situations in life. If I am indeed created in the image of God, my funny bone must have come from somewhere much deeper than me.
There was a time I used humour as a defense mechanism (and still do sometimes) – one quick cut to outwit another, or a little mockery to make myself feel better about my own inadequacies.
But the kind of comic relief I’m thinking of is the refreshing kind, the one that lifts up, not tears down.
What makes us chuckle I’ve done improvised comedy since I was in high school, performing short form, theatresport-style impromptu sketches, games, and songs. What makes improv, or any performance comedy for that matter, work is when the audience gets carried along by the performers.
Ultimately, the actors hope to create a stream of logic that the audience can follow, and then BOOM! – in with the punchline. In improv, we call it “breaking the routine.” If a performer is successful at turning the audience on its head after leading them along, audience members will have an emotional response. In this case, it’s laughter.
Bathtub is dripping, dripping…
Water is overflowing, overflowing, overflowing…
Audience is beginning to stress
about water damage and calling plumbers…
Enter a happy duck, carrying shower cap, back-scrubbing brush, and battleship.
For us, the end result of an overflowing bathtub is loss of time, money, and sanity. But for a duck, the more water, the better. Comedy is a mind game.
Is God good for a laugh?
In the same way, grace is a mind game.
The earth lay dark and shapeless and void, and then BOOM! – shooting stars, Venus flytraps, four-stomached cows, and a naked man appear.
The Philistines were on the verge of destroying the Israelites, who were trembling and crying, and then BOOM! – a scrawny, red-headed boy named David steps up and slays their greatest warrior with one stone, causing the more powerful army to hightail it out of there.
The Jewish people were waiting for their Messiah to establish himself as king of Israel, and then BOOM! – Jesus is born in a barn and enters Jerusalem on a donkey for the Passover feast.
A man hung on a tree and died in front of everyone, and then BOOM! – Jesus rises from the dead, destroying the power of sin and death and the separation between God and humans.
Peace, hope, joy, love, and even laughter are some of the emotional responses we might have when the gospel of Christ turns us on our head. The logical stream of our lives was leading us towards death, destruction, hell. But instead, we received the opportunity for right relationship with a holy God.
Paul writes that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The comedy comes when we make the decision to embrace God, coupling the knowledge of our pathetic state with his ridiculous and undeserved offer.
The foolish quality that Paul mentions doesn’t manifest itself as mockery or derision for the believer. Rather, the abundance of God’s grace releases us to experience the full joy that comes only from understanding the precious message of the gospel.
On the other hand, tragedy comes when the path to hell is followed until completion and our friends and family and so many unknown faces are eternally lost. There is nothing funny about that.
We weep for the lost, but in our own salvation we have the freedom to dance and sing and yes, even to laugh. As Christ has freed us, I think we too can sing the words the psalmist wrote in celebration of the Israelite release from Babylonian captivity: Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” (Psalm 126:2)
Did Jesus laugh? I’m pretty sure he did.